Objective: The purpose of the present paper was to examine the association between prospectively and cross-sectionally assessed cardiovascular risk factors and hearing loss.
Design: Hearing was assessed by pure-tone average thresholds at low (0.25-0.5 kHz), middle (1-2 kHz), and high (3-8 kHz) frequencies. Self-reported or measured cardiovascular risk factors were assessed both 11 years before and simultaneously with the audiometric assessment. Cardiovascular risk factors were smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, waist circumference, body mass index, resting heart rate, blood pressure, triglycerides, total serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and diabetes.
Study sample: A population-based cohort of 31 547 subjects.
Results: After adjustment for age, sex, level of education, income, recurrent ear infections, and noise exposure, risk factors associated with poorer hearing sensitivity were smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, resting heart rate, and waist circumference. Smoking was only associated with hearing loss at high frequencies. The effects were very small, in combination explaining only 0.2-0.4% of the variance in addition to the component explained by age and the other cofactors.
Conclusion: This cohort study indicates that, although many cardiovascular risk factors are associated with hearing loss, the effects are small and of doubtful clinical relevance.
Keywords: Epidemiology; alcohol; blood lipids; blood pressure; body mass index; diabetes; hearing loss; physical activity; smoking.